For years, many have been asking when or how there can be something for those of us, who, instead of making the pilgrimage “all the way” to Shatin- going to Kowloon if staying on Hong Kong side is seen as a pain in the arse as many of us are well and truly spoiled by being prisoners to convenience- don’t need to stray and, instead, take in a Sunday brunch at The Brasserie at the Conrad or force down that kebab from the night before, try to remember who the person is sleeping in your bed, and decide to go to the Happy Valley Racecourse, use its cross-betting facilities and piece together the events of the night before.
Many swear by it- cross-betting- saying they can watch the races- and bet on them- “in peace” and in their time- and are able to clearly see who’s won what instead of a blur going across the line and different voices screaming out different numbers and names- “It’s three,” “No, it’s five”, “It’s Dougie”, “No, it’s Hugh” and still getting it all wrong by it being Alex Lai on the eight.
With more and more preferring to stay in and watch the races from the comfort of their homes, the cross-betting experience is something to promote- and effectively- and with passion and not a yawn.
Sure, money is money and as long as turnover is on the up and up, one can shrug their shoulders to attendance figures. But this is being short-sighted.
The days, for example, of what local race-goers cutely referred to as “racing uncles”- those aging hardcore punters, very set in their ways and oblivious to venues, new technology and entertainment on racetracks- are numbered.
They’re a captive market as are the white collar Big Punters who can bet from any of their “terminals” after deciding on their investment for the day and going for make or break.
But then, in Hong Kong which provides the best racing experience in the world for different customer segments and with an eye on the future from which will be that next generation of Ronald Arcullis- and he looks to have a very good new one in Red Galileo- Cornel Lis, Sanford Yungs, even Stephen Los, David Boehms, the new Pan Sutongs- passionate racing enthusiasts and staunch supporters of the sport by investing in the best horsepower their money can buy- venues- and everything built around venues- is an extremely key component in the HKJC’s business strategy and where, like a chain, one’s strength is only as strong as its weakest link.
These are also the times when nothing can be taken for granted and seeing what really sticks.
Millions, a venue at Happy Valley Racecourse, is, like Adrenaline and The Gallery and Hay Market in Shatin, something that should stick- and be promoted.
We have no idea how long Millions has been around, but we- and many others there last night to enjoy a more scaled down Happy Wednesday with the city course being closed for various overhauls for the better, and able to cross-bet without hauling ass to Shatin on a weekday for just eight races- came away talking about what could be.
What we find baffling is that a venue like this is not even promoted.
Like Hay Market, these venues are opened- and just stay there, over-shadowed by the importance placed on wagering.
If so, why bother with progress and is “enhancing the customer experience” just a nice soundbite?
Millions has been a million dollar secret and, hopefully, after FINALLY being put to use- good use- with a great Happy Wednesday cross-betting night, here is a meeting place for those following the races to have a bet and win and with others coming in to understand more about a sport that still does not have top-of-mind awareness.
With a huge balcony area- big enough for different buffet spreads, a barbecue and all the space to take in the night air and a short walk to betting counters, the stage area for ‘live’ music where Ben Semmens and his backing band were performing- and what a brilliant new Slash-type guitarist has joined the outfit, just signed to Universal Music, and with tours of Scandinavia and the US lined up- and, of course, as with anything, having room for improvement and missing The Cool Factor.
Yes, Virginia, horse racing desperately needs at least ONE venue with this Cool Factor.
Bunging in a TVB Jade variety show and trying to be all things to all people often means some very good venues having no brand personality and, therefore, attracting a mish-mash- or local mosh pit- where there are many pieces- but where nothing fits as Cool cannot be taught- certainly not to racing club executives, many of whom are still Staying Alive with the Bee Gees.
Bottom line: Cross-betting should be promoted- the joys of cross-betting- and not fobbed off as something for “racing uncles”.
Cross-betting at Millions? A winner waiting to happen next season- on a regular basis- and part and parcel of an ongoing marketing program as opposed to another ad hoc promotional event.
As we keep saying, promotional events come and go and have no staying power.
Bona fide marketing programs is ammunition for the future and where many racing clubs desperately need to raise their game as they’re still not in sync with those who have discovered the joys of of a dating app like Tinder, a brilliant new band like The Struts, how, where and why to use Instagram and that there’s life after the Bee Gees.
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